Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims in on immigration debate

FRESNO, Calif.

In a telephone interview from Washington, Mims told Action News giving undocumented residents a path to citizenship will bring crime out of the shadows. She said too many immigrants are afraid to report crimes, and as a result criminals are getting away to commit more crimes.

"I'm hearing very serious crimes such as sexual assault against women, vehicle theft, robbery out in the fields when they are working. My belief is the immigration reform is sorely needed so these folks can feel secure in reporting crimes."

Mims also believes the undocumented can become victims of prostitution and other forms of human trafficking.

"Many people are brought to marijuana groves and told to guard these groves because those in charge know where their families live and they also threaten families so it is a human trafficking issue."

The goal of the latest legislation is to find a way to legalize most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country, tighten workplace regulations and secure the border. Mims says it's still a contentious issue, but believes progress is being made.

"We are as close as we have ever been with the current proposal and it was constructed by a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators who worked together to try and make this happen."

The immigration legislation is currently under debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A major sticking point is how to provide a path to legalization without appearing to give the undocumented immigrants something that could be called "amnesty."

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